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Kendall Payne
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GROWN (2004)
Grown - Click to view!It's been five years since this stellar, vocal powerhouse appeared on Capitol Records. But the years have aged this artist with wisdom: the youthful wit and sarcasm that created tunes like "Supermodels" and "Perfect By Thursday" has settled into a steady maturity. Grown is the perfect title for this independent recording. Kendall Payne has developed a deeper sense of "being" and placed some of her insights into this new collection. Instead of acquiring her identity from being Jordan's Sister, Payne has grown into herself and her own perception.

The theme of recognizing that we can never know all there is to know about life permeates this album. "Ups & Downs" acknowledges that place of hidden darkness we never want to dissect through a melody reminiscent of a French café: "Who can attest that when they're at their best / Oh their worst is still crouching close behind? / It's coming to peace with the darkness in me / That allows the true light inside to shine." "The Moon," a beautiful song of legato piano and smooth guitar solos, discusses the strength found in times of darkness, for just as the moon sits in inky black, "she still shines though / The night falls around her / And by her light I find my way / And when I fear the path laid before me / I look to the light of her face / And thank her for being so brave." Being able to shine through darkness requires a learning that sometimes only passing time provides. It's then we can realize that "We pretend when we find the end of ourselves / Afraid to be real so we say / That we're somebody else" ("Twenty-Three"). We fear the darkness of the unknown, so we make up an identity, when being ourselves provides the most freedom. Payne admits, though, that "coming back to life is harder than hell / Once you have died" ("Twenty-Three"). So Payne ends the album with "Pray," a simple song of cello, acoustic guitar, and vocals. Light picking accompanies hard-to-swallow prayers such as, "May you never be sure / Of any plan you desire / But you'd learn to trust the plans / He has for you / May your passions be tried and / Tested in the holy fire." Then the song twists as Payne asks her friends to say these prayers for her as well. True maturity comes when we can pray, for ourselves, "May you find every step / To be harder than the last / So your character grows" ("Pray").

Grown does have a few songs that reflect the pop rock sounds found on Jordan's Sister. "Superstar" has the same musical flavor as "Hollywood." "Little Things" addresses being secure in yourself, regardless of what others think, because God loves us the way we are (even when we make silly noises with our mouths at the beginning of our song). "Happy" features a country-rock beat and chronicles separation, divorce, and the desire to be loved again. "Backwards" begins with an 80's guitar distortion played by Jason Wade, lead singer of Lifehouse. Payne also devotes a song to Aslan, the allegoric representation of God in C.S. Lewis' classic series The Chronicles of Narnia, yet the sound is a bit reminiscent of "Ups & Downs." While the music arrangements overall don't reach the rock strength of Jordan's Sister, they're a nice diversion from the slow tempos.

"Scratch," the sobering ballad that opens Grown, serves as the thesis to the album. Payne used to think she could "change the world with a song," but now she wants to begin again: "I'd like to know if you'd be open / To starting over from scratch / I'd like to know if you'd be open / To giving me a second chance." This is a true sense of being grown. While she wishes she were young again, she knows that "It's a big girl world now / Full of big girl things," and she must act accordingly. Throughout Grown, we witness a woman's desire to begin again—with God, with life, and perhaps even with the past fans listening to her new offering. Kendall Payne returns to the scene with lyrics that cut to the heart and music that soothes a developing soul.
- Hollie Stewart
November 2004
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